“Why would she commit suicide when she earns a huge income, smiles a lot at work and with her friends, and has beautiful kids and a loving husband?” “Abeg, her life is perfect for her to ever think about suicide”. “He must be an ungrateful human being to ever consider suicide despite her luxurious living condition”
The above statements represent the thoughts of many people, immediately after news of suicide pops up, especially if the victim appears to have a ‘comfortable’ life. It is imaginable to wonder why you or anyone would want to end their own life because apparently death is not an easy experience, not even for elderly folks. Suicide is actually an unconscious approach to solving a problem, it is a self-destructive behaviour that seems to the victim as the only alternative option to solve their distressful problem.
The act of ending one’s own life begins with some uncontrollable dysfunctional thoughts which consequently lead to the attempt. The person first thinks “this situation is causing me severe distress and nothing I have tried seems to make the situation better, the only time I can stop experiencing the distress is when I am no longer breathing/alive”.
You agree that such thought is dysfunctional, now these thoughts further encourage the person to take actions that support the thoughts such as drinking poison, driving recklessly, making extremely poor decisions, etc. Some attempts are successful, leading to the death of the person while some attempts fail, leading to more severe pain or triggering the person to seek professional help.
People give different reasons such as social, psychological, and financial factors for their suicidal ideation and attempts, but this write-up explores the basic mental processes that influence suicide, hence it goes straight to the point. If you will like to dig deep into the concept of suicide, you may need to read more on trusted platforms, journals or textbooks. You must always be aware that suicide is influenced by a combination of factors, and people experience these influences differently.
Predisposition → Trigger → Thought → Action
This refers to factors including events that make an individual vulnerable to suicide. Example of such factor includes hereditary, brain damage (due to accident), history of psychological disorder, drug abuse, drug addiction, poor emotional skills, past trauma, failed relationship, personality disorder, and poverty to name only a few. However, many people have misjudged people by tracing their suicidal attempts to only these factors. This implies that these factors have tendencies to make a person feel suicidal but may not, depending on several other factors, including the person’s perception and resilience. This will bring us to the next factor known as “The Trigger.”
This refers to a specific factor individual experiences as the strain. In this context, it means any such thing that causes the individual to ruminate and then feel miserable, helpless, and hopeless. What makes a trigger is the perception of such an individual, except for the biological factor such as brain damage due to an accident. Even such a case scenario must have impaired the perception of the individual to activate the effect – suicidal thoughts or attempts. Some examples of triggers are withdrawal syndrome (as a result of drug rehabilitation), brain damage, break-up, family pressure, low grade, bullying, or failed marriage. Another vital trigger that often coexists with every other trigger is a low sense of control or self-responsibility (which is worsened in the face of mental distress), that is the peak of strain because the individual starts to feel so passive and that continues to diminish their worth, and sense of meaning to the point that nothing else but exiting the world makes sense to them. This implies that a trigger is an experience that stimulates uncontrollable dysfunctional thoughts, emotional pains and then the maladaptive behaviour known as suicidal attempts.
Whatever the trigger is, it may hold no power without the thoughts. Thoughts are building blocks of mental processes. What mental thoughts constitute determines the quality of an individual’s well-being and life. Suicide is strongly associated with suicidal attempts and a suicidal attempt is impossible without suicidal ideation, Suicide ideation cannot exist without suicidal intent and suicidal intent is formed by cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are thoughts that are destructive, negatively biased, inaccurate and irrelevant to reality. The feeling a person has about killing themselves comes from the distorted thoughts that make them feel helpless and hopeless. Destructive thoughts automatically enhance and sustain the distress, it makes them lose touch with reality and the brain produces unrealistic solutions such as killing the self as a way to solve the problem.
The thoughts persist and cause severe pains and begin to manifest in your behaviours. This causes such a person to become reckless with their life, to the point of succumbing to the destructive impulse (strong feeling to end your life). Committing suicide has little or nothing to do with either economic, marital, social or political status. It is influenced by a combination of factors, the perceived strain and the response to such strain. No matter how painful or stressful an event is, if it does not make the person feel hopeless or helpless, then it cannot lead to suicide. There are always two options a person with suicidal ideation considers, either to seek help or take their own life. The latter is destructive and may cause more harm than you ever anticipate. They consider taking their life because they do not trust that there is any help or the help may cost them so much. This is no longer true, if you or anyone around you has suicidal thoughts or exhibits any form of self-destructive behaviours no matter how little it is, please reach out to mental health professionals around you or you may reach out to Arogi Trauma Care Foundation to speak to one of the professional clinical psychologists at the Foundation.